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Community updates: Thursday, Sept. 3

Gov. Whitmer reopens Michigan gyms, allows organized sports to resume; City of Grand Rapids launches Feet on the Street campaign to improve curbside recycling; Storytime Grand Rapids brings back Storytime in the Park series this month; and more.
Zandra Blake, GRPL Seymour Branch Manager, and Rockford Construction crew admiring new Storytime Grand Rapids Book Pantry.

Zandra Blake, GRPL Seymour Branch Manager, and Rockford Construction crew admiring new Storytime Grand Rapids Book Pantry. /ReadGR

Gov. Whitmer reopens Michigan gyms, allows organized sports to resume

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued executive orders Thursday reopening gyms and pools and allowing organized sports to resume across Michigan.

Gyms and pools may begin to reopen for state regions where they remained closed, including the Grand Rapids region, on September 9. Strict safety measures must be enforced, including face covering use at all times, including times of exercise.

Additional safety measures include organizing workout stations or implementing protocols that enable six-feet distancing, reducing class sizes to enable six-feet distancing, providing equipment-cleaning products throughout the gym, and more.

"I urge everyone who plans to hit the gym after these orders go into effect to take these precautions seriously and do everything in their power to protect themselves and their families," said Whitmer. "Be smart, and stay safe."

For the resumption of organized sports for state regions where this was barred, including the Grand Rapids region, spectators for indoor organized sports are limited to up to two guests per athlete. For outdoor sports competitions, organizers of competitions must either limit the audience to two guests per athlete, or limit total attendance to 100 people, including all participants like athletes, coaches, and staff.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services also released public guidance on contact sports in Michigan on Thursday, coinciding with Whitmer's related order. Within it, contact sports are recommended against at this time to reduce COVID-19's spread, including football, basketball, and soccer.

"As we begin to start organized sports back up again, I urge school districts and athletic associations to do everything in their power to protect players, coaches, and staff," Whitmer said. "That means carefully following the guidelines released today by DHHS."

The governor issued an additional executive order Thursday, extending the state's emergency and disaster declarations due to the pandemic through October 1. The declarations authorize her to continue issuing orders such as the face covering mandate and indoor and outdoor capacity restrictions.

The full orders issued by Whitmer are available on the Executive Orders page on her official website.


MHSAA reinstates Michigan high school football for fall

In light of Whitmer's order allowing organized sports to resume across the state, the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) announced on Thursday that the 2020 fall football season has been reinstated.

The move impacts over 70 high, middle, and elementary schools in the Grand Rapids area, who can now switch back their football seasons from spring 2020 to this fall.

Other sports now able to move forward across the state this fall include soccer, volleyball, swimming, and diving. Schools are not required to play any of those sports this fall, and may postpone until the spring.

"Thirty three other states are currently participating in all fall sports, and the MHSAA and its member schools are committed to doing this as safely as possible," MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. "We are ready to again provide those experiences to students and communities that have hoped for a return of some normalcy."

"Given the challenges of online education in many school districts across the state, providing sports and a daily routine may be more important than ever in motivating students and providing a safe outlet for physical activity, competition, and socialization."

Football teams may begin regular-season games September 18. They'll play six games beginning with their originally-scheduled Week 4. All teams in 11 and eight-player football will qualify for the playoffs during this fall’s shortened season.

All other fall sports tournaments will be conducted as previously scheduled.

More details about the MHSAA's reinstatement of various fall sports are available on its website.


City of Grand Rapids launches Feet on the Street campaign to improve curbside recycling

The City of Grand Rapids is introducing a citywide campaign this month aimed at improving the quality of materials residents recycle in their curbside carts, it announced Monday.

Called Feet on the Street, the campaign will see a team of community-based observers – or "recycling detectives" – visit each Grand Rapidian's recycling cart, review its content, and leave behind a tag with personalized feedback to help the resident recycle better.

Their work will span three months, beginning mid-September. They'll remind residents what is and isn't acceptable recycling material, such as yes for paper, cardboard, and plastic bottles, and no for plastic bags, cords, and yard waste.

"Recycling is not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do – and this program furthers our strategic priority of health and environment," said James Hurt, Managing Director of Public Services. "This helps us minimize waste generation and promote waste diversion practices by improving the quality and amount of recycling we collect."

Feet on the Street was developed by nonprofit The Recycling Partnership, who the city will be working with throughout the campaign, in addition to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.

The city states on its website that other communities that've done a similar program have reported a reduction in their amount of recycling contamination; anywhere from 25 to 45 percent.

Grand Rapids' own effort will cover roughly 55,000 households, with the city providing a $15,000 matching grant to support the campaign.

"We know our residents want to recycle the right way. Through the Feet on the Street campaign, we can provide them customized immediate feedback to do just that," Hurt added.

More details about the city's Feet on the Street campaign are available on its website.


Storytime Grand Rapids brings back Storytime in the Park series in September

Storytime in the Park, a series of free book distributions and readings to youth and children 17 and under, is coming back to Grand Rapids this month.

Its organizer, Storytime Grand Rapids (SGR), announced Monday that the series' events will take place at rotating neighborhood parks through September.

There will be three time slots at each park's event, in order to maintain physical distancing and accommodate as many families as possible. Participating readers will be announced soon.

The dates and participating parks are:

The time slots are 6-6:25pm, 6:50-7:15pm, and 7:30-8pm.

Before these September events, SGR was offering free books to youth and families at food distribution events between June and August, in light of the pandemic. The newly-planned events at neighborhood parks are the first time Storytime in the Park has been in full action since last year.

In addition to hosting Storytime in the Park, SGR has installed book pantries throughout the city. These Book Pantry units were constructed and installed in partnership with Rockford Construction, and are accessible at various locations including the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, Grand Rapids Public Library's Seymour Branch, Other Way Ministries, and more.

SGR is a collaboration between the City of Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids Public Library, Grand Valley State University, Literacy Center of West Michigan, and ReadGR.

More details about SGR, including a full list of locations for its book pantries, are available on its website.


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